I believe everyone can equally say that this year has been extraordinary. It was only around March when the reality of COVID-19 started gaining steam in most western countries, while other places were dealing with it as far back as December 2019 to January 2020. For some, it took until mid-April for the lockdowns to come into severe effect. I thought back then that things would be back in full swing by late summer, but that is not the case. While I was happy for those who got a break from the norm, even for an introverted person like me, the idea of being confined and not being able to travel the way I want was frustrating.
Last year around this time, a co-worker and I flirted with the idea of going to Singapore for a week in the spring of 2020. That didn’t happen as nothing panned-out the way we wanted it. Instead this year I graduated university online and became certified in basic cyber security via a remote proctor. I did this all while working in Afghanistan as a defense contractor under the immense pressure of being overworked and underpaid.
In July I was forced into isolation due to encountering an infected person, while in isolation I applied to a school in Italy. I wanted to study User Experience Psychology which excited me at first until I got the email saying that I was selected to be interviewed by the faculty. Surprisingly, I got into the program and by mid-September I started the paperwork. Let me tell you people something, getting into a foreign school as an American while it is easier than most it is not a joke. It is not for the faint of heart, and I do believe the people who go through with it really want the opportunity. I have to be in Italy before 21st January 2021, and I am still worried that most of my paperwork will not get completed on time or they will reject my visa at the embassy for forgetting to cross my T’s and dot my I’s.
The paperwork you have to complete is all over the place, from embassy appointment requests to understanding Apostille requirements. Getting health insurance is also on the top of the list, booking a flight to and from your destination, and ensuring you have a place to stay before you get to your destination. You are also expected to know what to do and how to do it with little to no help, which leads you to fall down the rabbit hole of Reddit, and YouTube searches looking for someone who have gone through the same ordeal. Let’s not forget that international students also have to ensure that they don’t become a financial burden and can support themselves during their entire study period. Luckily for me, my education financing is worry-free, but I do feel for students who struggle with tuition and all the other funds it takes to get them to graduation. Don’t forget that you are going to a foreign country, which means learning a new language, culture, and way of life. Within that year or years, you are also expected to graduate, make friends, and come out at the end of it happy.
Perhaps I am venting a bit more than needed in this blog, but I wanted to tell someone else what I have been doing. I am quietly going through the process, hoping that I will come out at the end of it more informed in order to educate others who wish to study abroad.
While going to Italy is Plan A, I have decided to make things considerably tricky for myself by choosing to take on another master’s degree. I have started enrolling in a Master of Science in Human Factor at an American aeronautical university. Of course, I will complete this all online since most colleges are still dealing with COVID-19. As I will be struggling to adjust to life and school in a new place, I will also be tackling another program. I’ve also started to think about a Plan C and came up with the idea of attending a UX/UD boot camp for about six months. I am even still saying yes to all job offers or requests for my resume. Right now, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look at all options once it leads to something that I want to do.
It is at this point, where I wonder where I will find myself come next November. Would I look back at this and say, wow, I have accomplished what I set out to do, or will I regret a few missteps? I know in life events seldom go as planned for anyone, as my life story is perhaps the most outstanding example of this fact. For me, disappointments and celebrations come and go, but time is something that pushes us forward.
Instead of focusing on ensuring our future plans work out precisely or our journeys follow a written path that checks all boxes. Perhaps it’s time to pause for a moment of silence to experience reality. Appreciate the joys and woes, but most importantly enjoy the sliver of time we take for granted in the presence of others who add nostalgia to moments in our lives. Such as that cold night in Kabul in December of 2018, when I stayed up pass midnight laughing like a hyena at a café over a cup of tea with good company.
Or sitting across from a co-worker at an Afghan restaurant listening as he recalls tales of his childhood growing up in Louisiana and the many people who have crossed his path in life.
Then I think to myself, why couldn’t I see in those moments while they were happening, the memories, and feelings of yearning for a fleeting passage of belonging. As I move into the future, I am coming to the realization that perhaps I should not make too many plans and should let somethings happen by chance. In doing so I can slow down to enjoy my memories and try to recognize when I am creating genuine moments with others that impress upon my soul a feeling of being grounded and true. While this year has been a strange year, I feel comfortable in saying that this strange time we find ourselves in, has made me understand that change is inevitable and that nature would eventually find ways to make us check our human egos at the door.
So with that said, I will end this post with a group of words from Allan Watts.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
Dedicated to GD & CJ